Workers On Illegal Strike At Chrome Mine In S.Africa-Union

by
Reuters
Operations at a chrome mine in South Africa owned by chemicals group LANXESS have been suspended since Thursday after workers started an illegal strike over bonus payments, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Saturday.

chrome mine

Operations at a chrome mine in South Africa owned by chemicals group LANXESS have been suspended since Thursday after workers started an illegal strike over bonus payments, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Saturday.

The dispute at the mine in Rustenburg, 120 km (70 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, adds to growing labour tensions around South Africa's platinum belt, which are set to intensify over looming job cuts and wage talks in the sector.

"The strike is still ongoing, although we are trying to persuade workers to go back," said Mxhasi Sithethi, the union's regional co-ordinator for Rustenburg.

"The company issued a court injunction yesterday calling the workers to go back to work, but the employees reacted angrily."

Sithethi said the situation around the mine had been tense on Friday, although there were no reports of violence. The union will be in talks with the workers and the company's management on Monday to find a solution to the dispute.

The company could not be reached for comment.

Rustenburg, the centre of South Africa's platinum belt and home to 80 percent of known global platinum reserves, has over the past year become the flashpoint of violent labour strife and a turf war between the NUM and the more militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).

More than 50 people were killed in labour-related violence last year amid a wave of wildcat strikes that hit production in the platinum and gold sectors, and there are concerns that there could be more unrest after Anglo American Platinum announced plans to cut 6,000 mining jobs around Rustenburg.

That is less than half the 14,000 initially targeted by the world's top producer of the precious metal as it seeks to restore profits, but unions have still vowed to fight the lay-offs. However, a protest strike called for Friday by at least two AMCU officials failed to materialise.

Upcoming wage talks in South Africa's mining sector are also expected to be difficult given inflation, rising worker militancy, shrinking company margins and sharply falling commodity prices. The platinum price lost nearly 20 percent in the last two years.

AMCU's leader on Friday threatened to bring Africa's biggest economy to a standstill, ramping up the rhetoric in the 18-month labour crisis, while the rand fell to a four-year low against the dollar this week on concerns about further disruptions to an already struggling economy.

The growing tensions have put pressure on President Jacob Zuma's African National Congress (ANC), which was criticised for its handling of last year's turmoil and faces accusations that it is neglecting the poor 19 years after the end of apartheid.